NCAA Softball: Women's College World SeriesNorthwestern vs OU

Oklahoma Sooners infielder Jana Johns has been swinging a hot bat in the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Norman, OK and the Sooners will go for its second consecutive NCAA title starting Thursday night.

For more than a century, Oklahoma and Texas have met on fields and courts across the heartland to decide things. From NCAA football championships to Big 12 Conference titles to annual bragging rights, they’ve had some great battles.

And now for the first time ever, the two schools who will be members of the SEC by the end of this decade will meet to decide the Women’s College World Series when Oklahoma and former Calhoun HS superstar Jana Johns meet the Lady Longhorns in Norman,OK in a best-of-three series that starts Wednesday evening.

The Sooners are pursuing their second consecutive NCAA World Series trophy and will enter the finals with an amazing 56-3. Texas, which beat Oklahoma State twice Monday night to keep playing under the double-elimination format, is in the finals for the first time in school history, but is playing for the tenth appearance in the WCWS.

Oklahoma reached the finals by winning three of its first four games at the World Series and for just a minute, the pressure was on them after they lost to UCLA Monday morning with a chance to advance. But 30 minutes later, they dominated in what would be a run-rule 15-0 win over those same Lady Bruins in an elimination game and now the slate is clean going into the finals against one of the three teams that handed the Sooners a loss this year.

Johns, a 2017 Calhoun High School graduate whose had her number retired from her playing days on South King Street, has been outstanding for the Sooners all season and especially in the postseason, defensively handling all those hot shots hit at her at third base while her offense really sparked the team in their Game One rout of Northwestern last Thursday on the first day of play at the WCWS.

Johns, batting eighth in that mighty Sooner lineup, was 2-for-3 with five RBI in the win and hit one of the team’s two grand slam home runs in a 13-2 mercy rule win over the Wildcats out of the Big 10.

In addition, Johns started and ended her team’s scoring as the Sooners would plate six runs in the third and seven more in the fourth to advance to the second round in the winner’s bracket.

Northwestern sent the sellout mostly crimson-clad crowd into a stunned silence with a solo home run in the top of the third inning to take a 1-0 lead before OU went to work with the first of its two big innings.

After a leadoff double, Johns hit a sharp grounder into left-center field for the RBI single that tied the game in an inning that eventually saw the Sooners take a 6-1 lead into the fourth.

And in the bottom of the fourth, with a 9-1 advantage and the sacks full of Lady Sooners, Johns launched a shot over the right field wall to quickly bolster her team’s advantage to 13-1.

That moved the Lady Sooners to Saturday and they knocked off Texas, 7-2, to move within one win of the finals and a date in the semifinals on Monday.

Despite her big day on Thursday, Johns dropped down one spot in the batting order, hitting ninth on Saturday and she went 0-for-2 at the plate.

The Sooners led just 2-1 after the first inning, but they scored four runs in the fifth to break it open and take a 6-1 lead. They would add their last run in the top of the seventh before the Longhorns pushed across their second and final run in the bottom half.

On Monday, any hopes of an unbeaten run through the WCWS came to an end when UCLA defeated Oklahoma, 5-3 to force a second match between the two just 30 minutes later in an elimination game. But the Sooners were undaunted and unmoved, getting the bats and the pitching working for a 15-0 laugher that made them the first team in the field to reach the finals.

In the first of their two games Monday, the Bruins used the long ball to do their offensive damage, hitting three home runs to score all their runs.

A two-run shot in the top of the first put Oklahoma behind for just the fourth time this year, but the Sooners responded with a run of their own in the bottom half.

It stayed that way until the top of the third when the Bruins added a three-run homer, giving them a 5-1 lead. The Sooners sliced it to 5-3 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Bruins salted the game away with a two-run round-tripper in the top of the seventh.

But with their season and possible second straight title on the line, the Sooners roared past the Bruins in easy fashion in their rematch to eliminate the team from Los Angeles.

OU had three runs in the first inning, three more in the second, one in the third and then put it away with an eight-run fifth inning as the game went just five frames.

Johns was 1-for-3 in that game with a run scored.

Johns will take a .317 batting average and a .474 on-base percentage into the WCWS championship round.

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